Non-Fiction Contest Winner - 2011
Pizza for Neighbors
by: Nur Kose
"Thank you for your kindness during the power outage and floodin Elmwood. The pizza was such a delight as I was dealing with a flooded basement and a husband I was bringing home from the hospital. You brought tears to my eyes."
This short message was written on a card my family received a few days after Eid. The four days before Eid, in Ramadan, our neighborhood lost its electricity because of Hurricane Irene. Those four days were probably the toughest days in our lives, especially because it was during Ramadan. We had to eat suhur and iftar in pitch darkness with only a minuscule amount of light coming from flickering candles on our dining table. We had to take cold showers, use flashlights in the bathroom, could not use the Internet and couldn’t eat warm home-cooked meals.
Knowing how difficult it was without power, we realized that our neighbors must have been having it rough, as well. We also remembered that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself said that the angel Jibril repeatedly reminded him about the importance of neighbors and being good to them, so much so that he thought he would be commanded to give a share of his inheritance to his neighbors. Therefore, thinking of things that would cheer us up in a time like this, we came up with a plan to help out our neighbors. We went out on behalf of the Zakat Foundation of America and bought a few dozen boxes of pizza.
Taping cards onto each pizza box and then distributing the boxes to our nearby neighbors was a challenge. There was about one or two hours left before iftar time and we were extremely hungry. The warm, pleasant aroma of the pizza floated into our noses, making our stomachs grumble loudly. On top of that, not all of our neighbors were very welcoming. Yes, there were many neighbors who gratefully accepted our gift and thanked us warmly. But there were also a number of our neighbors who slammed the door in our faces.
However, we knew that this was part of the package of being kind to our neighbors. Almost everyone knows the story of when a Jewish woman would throw garbage on top of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) everyday as he walked beneath her window. But on the day our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) didn’t feel garbage being thrown on his head as he walked past his neighbor’s home, he began to wonder and worry about her. He went to see her and ask if everything was okay. Now, ordinarily, if some one's neighbor threw garbage on his head every day, he’d most probably get really angry and immediately seek revenge. But this example of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) teaches us the importance of being kind to neighbors.
Of course, it’s very easy to retell this story over and over again. The challenge comes with implementing it and as a slight September breeze brushed past us that Ramadan evening, we decided we were willing to take that challenge. We were willing to sacrifice our time, energy, and comfort for our neighbors. And the letter we received reminded us that Allah never forgets any good deeds we do.